Tarik's Take: 5 observations following the Redskins win over the Giants
Washington's winning ways are building a solid foundation
1-If you’re a fan of the Redskins, there’s much more to be excited about on this Monday morning than just being in first place in the mediocre NFC East. Here are two more: Accountability and character. All good teams have those attributes, and it certainly looks like the Redskins are finally starting to acquire them. Let’s start with accountability. Last week’s practices, by many accounts, featured coaches getting on players and players getting on players for repeated mistakes, lack of hustle, etc. Additionally, this latest victory came after a players-only team meeting on Saturday night. And character? Three times, the Redskins have faced ‘must-win’ type games. Three times, they’ve responded with season-preserving victories (Bucs, Saints and Giants). In 2013 and 2014, the Redskins disintegrated down the stretch. This fall, it seems possible that things will come together as the games get more important.
Cousins performs on a big stage...again
2-Each time I’ve started to wonder if Kirk Cousins has what it takes to be a quality starter, he responds with a performance like the one he had Sunday. His final stat line was solid but what impressed me the most was how he performed under pressure as the Redskins protected their lead in the final minutes. One play in particular stood out: his 20-yard completion to Jordan Reed on a third-and-five with about 3:30 remaining, which, of course, helped take critical seconds off the clock. In his last five home games, Cousins is now 5-0 with 1,496 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions and 3 rushing scores. Now if Cousins could just figure out how to pack that up and take it on the road…
Welcome back, Redskins running game
3-The Redskins saw improvement in two key areas on Sunday: rushing offense and run defense. Led by Alfred Morris’ 78 yards on 23 carries, the Redskins accumulated 105 yards on the ground. A modest total to be sure, but after gaining just 14 at Carolina, well, that signaled a monster improvement. Morris, by the way, played his most snaps (43) since the season opener (49). Fullback Darrel Young, meantime, saw a season-high 13 snaps on offense. As for the run defense, the Redskins enjoyed their best performance of the season, limiting the Giants to a season-low 33 yards on 13 attempts (2.5 per). Sure, game situation had something to do with it. But it marked progress, anyway.
Man oh man, the pass rush bothered Manning
4-The Redskins’ pass rush did what good units do against vulnerable opponents: it took full advantage. The Giants came into the game down two starters along the offensive line and quickly lost a third when guard Geoff Schwartz exited with a lower leg fracture. Led by Ryan Kerrigan, Chris Baker, Jason Hatcher and Preston Smith, the Redskins registered 15 quarterback pressures and eight hits on Eli Manning, who never seemed to get comfortable. Kerrigan had his first multiple sack (2) game since Atlanta, boosted his season total to 6.5 and passed Monte Coleman for third all-time in franchise history with 44.5. Chris Baker had a sack, too. Kerrigan and Hatcher, meanwhile, combined for nine hurries.
Keep an eye on injuries to Dunbar, Carrier
5-If the injuries suffered by tight end Derek Carrier (Achilles’ tendon sprain) and cornerback Quinton Dunbar (dislocated index finger) cause them to miss any time, an already injury-depleted Redskins’ team is going to find itself running out of backups, too. Carrier is officially day-to-day, but he played only two snaps against the Giants. Next up would be Je’Ron Hamm, who was just signed off the practice squad. Meantime, Dunbar, the game’s unexpected hero, told me on Redskins Postgame Live that the bone was sticking out of his skin and had to be sewn back in. He’s scheduled to see a hand specialist Monday. If he’s out, undrafted rookie Deshazor Everett (10 snaps all season) could be next up. So, yeah, it’s getting a little desperate on the injury front.